Hong Kong

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:36 am on 12th November 2020.

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Photo of Layla Moran Layla Moran Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 10:36 am, 12th November 2020

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question, and I thank the Minister for his words. Today I have a very simple question. What are the Government going to do as “one country, two systems” disappears before our eyes? The disqualification of pro-democracy lawmakers from the Legislative Council of Hong Kong means it has effectively been reduced to a rubber-stamp Parliament and democracy on the peninsula is now in mortal peril.

Although the previous actions of this Government are to be commended, it is time to do more. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary told the House in July that the Government

“will hold China to its international obligations.”—[Official Report, 20 July 2020; Vol. 678, c. 1832.]

Yet here we are again. Through these actions, the Chinese Government are making a mockery of the joint declaration. I ask the Minister what legal routes to defend the joint declaration are being considered. What has the Minister done to co-ordinate a response with our allies internationally, in particular the USA, including President-elect Biden, and the European Union? Will the UK finally impose Magnitsky-style sanctions on those individuals in Hong Kong and China who are responsible for human rights abuses, and, if not that model, will he look at a sanctions register, as used by the US?

The BNO citizenship scheme excludes those who need it, particularly young people who have so bravely protested in the best traditions of democracy. We must protect them. The estimated true cost for a Hongkonger to come here for five years is £3,000, and that is before living costs. Many simply cannot afford it. Will the Minister confirm how many applications have been made under the scheme and how many have been granted? Will he consider introducing a bursary scheme for those unable to pay, and will he introduce a lifeboat policy for all Hong Kong citizens regardless of age and, if not, will he agree to meet me to discuss this matter further?

In 1996, John Major underlined our commitment to Hong Kong when he said:

“If there were to be any suggestion of a breach of the Joint Declaration we would have a duty to pursue every legal and other avenue available to us.”

He concluded:

“Hong Kong will never have to walk alone.”

It is time for actions, not just words. It is time to make good on our promise.